Unique spin on sharing vinyl 

As vinyl sales continue to grow every year, with no foreseeable drop in sight, it's fair to ask: What's next for the old medium?

The future looks bright, at least to Nick Alt, a vice president at the video sharing company Vimeo and audio expert who started a Kickstarter campaign for VNYL, a service that rents new and old records to members.

"We believe every piece of vinyl tells a unique story – a record of where it has been and where it may go. Secondhand vinyl is a long-loved tradition from the worn edges of the cardboard sleeve to the distinctly rich tones," says the Kickstarter site. "It's a narrative that tells of someone who loved records and understood their timeless value. We believe this story should continue its journey to you and to a community of vinyl lovers."

On the surface, it's not a bad idea, and great for helping people find music they crave - though not specific albums they request. Subscribers indicate the "vibe" they prefer, and three LPs are sent to their door. They can take their time listening to each record, and when they're done, send them back for a new set. It's sort of like Netflix for the audiophile.

Yet it's unclear what rental prices are, and the first phase of the Kickstarter campaign – which pulled in 777 backers and $36,000 – is closed. The first shipments are scheduled for February.

I have a few more questions, in particular regarding quality. Unlike CDs and DVDs, vinyl isn't easy to keep in working order. Records scratch, dust wreaks havoc and needles slowly chip away at them. Weather and heat easily can damage them. The second a record is taken out of the sleeve and placed on the turntable, it depreciates in both value and sound.

With so many people handling and shipping them, it's hard to believe these records will be in good shape when they reach listeners' doors. (I have a hard enough time letting others handle my pieces of vinyl.) And it's different from buying used vinyl at a store, where you can inspect the grooves.

While I'm interested and hopeful the idea takes off, for now I'll sit in the backseat and wait.

cramey@sfexaminer.com

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